Recent Snow Should Help Replenish Moisture

The recent dump of snow on parts of southern and central Alberta could be a little bit of good news for farmers, that is if the harvest is done.

That’s according to Harry Brook, Crop Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, who says the snow and rain that drenched a good part of the province will replenish soil moisture reserves.

Brook tells Rural Roots Canada that good soil moisture reserves from last winter has helped the yield for many central Alberta farmers, but that has been all used up, and they will need to get it recharged for next year.

There is some good news on that front, as CTV Calgary Meteorologist David Spence says in many areas the moisture from the snow was absorbed right into the soil because nothing is frozen yet.

“You may have noticed no flooding from the snow melt,” says Spence, “that indicates much of it seeped into the soil, while the rest evaporated.”

The experienced meteorologist says the bulk of the snow fell on southeast Alberta and east central Alberta.

Spence says more than 60 centimetres of snow fell on the north side of the Cypress Hills, while an area from Delia, to Lloydminster, down south to Oyen received around 20 centimetres.

Further south toward Pincher Creek, Spence says around 20 centimetres fell, which is good news for crews dealing with the Kenow wildfire which forced the closure of Waterton Lakes National Park in September.

Brook says the fact most of the snow was in the south is a good thing, not only because most of the harvest is done, but also, some northern parts of the province are too wet.

“They have had so much moisture, especially in that northeast region this summer, they need a break, they don’t need anymore, ” according to Brook.

As for the 2017 harvest, Brook says it is about two-thirds complete when you look at the entire province of Alberta.

“But there are big disparities between regions, the south is pretty much wrapped up, central Alberta 75-80 per cent done, then up to the Vermilion/Wainwright area, not even half done, and the north-west, Barrhead/Westlock area, are further behind, probably under 20 per cent complete, and the Peace region is about half done” according to Brook.

What’s still left out there?

The Stettler based specialist says certainly in central Alberta it is canola which is better able to handle adverse weather conditions than cereals.

“With your wheat and your barley and oats, you get quality downgrades, due to wetting and drying and bleaching, whereas the canola is in the little pods and if it is in the swaths it won’t take that long to dry out either, because the swaths are quite ‘fluffy’ allowing heat and wind to dry them out,” says Brook.

If you have most of the crop off Brook says you could also look to see if there’s an opportunity for some late season weed control.

“You can get a lot of these winter annuals that get started, they are really easy to kill this time of year if they have green plant material,” Brook says.

But he adds you need the right conditions for such an application, your harvest has to be done and you need a little moisture.